An Ode To My Ideal Project Car

Chevrolet Corvair

I've only been in the Automobile office for a few weeks now, but associate editor Sam Smith is already harping that I pick up a project car. That's hard to do when you're paid on an hourly basis, but I think I've found the ideal candidate: a Chevrolet Corvair.

Here's where I risk getting lampooned: it's not a slinky post-'65 coupe, but an early (think 1960-1962) sedan.; It's certainly not even sporty like the Monza Turbo coupes; at best, the thing makes do with an 80-hp 2.3-liter air-cooled boxer-six and a two-speed slushbox.

It's certainly nowhere close to a concours-ready car; the red paint is severely faded to a flat rose hue, while chrome pieces - including a few hubcaps and the front emblem - are scattered in the backseat.

But those cons don't outweigh the positives - it is, after all, an early sedan that is remarkably solid.; I can't seem to find any major oxidation outside of a bit of surface rust.; The body seems straight; there is a large dent in the front passenger door, but it looks easy enough to pull back out.; Even if it doesn't, it's a character flaw - for some reason, I love the way the car looks with flat paint and steel wheels.

Albeit dirty, the interior seems to be in great shape.; I didn't see any major tears in the upholstery, and the vast majority of trim pieces look to be in their proper place.; Give me a few hours with some Armor-All and a scrubber, and I'd have it looking hospitable - if not inviting.

I'm also thinking it's a much better choice of a project car than my other idea - a Citroen 2CV.; No, the Corvair doesn't have the French quirk of the Deux Chevaux, but it is quirky enough to keep me interested.; I'd also argue having the support of a nation-wide Corvair community - not to mention a decent number of parts vendors - would make my life with the car much easier.; And while Nader may object, I'd reason the Corvair could be at least slightly safer than getting behind the wheel of a "Tin Snail."

Sorry, Ralph; I think I'm picking the Corvair.; Now, if I only had the money....and if only it had a manual transaxle...

Go for the challenge! I have a '60 500 Sedan (with only one upgrade -- the optional heater -- woo hoo) that's been sitting 4 years waiting for some lovin' attention. I quit driving it because the 2-sp auto just can't hack the hills where I live. Other than that it's been bullet proof. It was my best friend's car for perhaps 10 years, and was used every weekend to make the round trip from NYC out to the Hamptons. Perhaps you'd like to have his/hers Corvairs in your garage? Gotta say, the thing gets way more looks than my '56 Alfa Giulietta. Have fun!
I love a guy who enjoys a challenge, and that Corvair will reward you by being a good car in the bargain.My Dad and I used to specialize in Corvairs in the 60s and 70s because no one else would touch them(too hard to work on).Here's what you will find out: the steering will need idler arm bushings; the pushrod tube seals will be baked into granite and leaking, with smoke going everywhere(including inside through the heater);and if you have cranking problems, be sure to first check the large purple wire in the topside connector under the hood(corrodes). There's also a long tunnel under the car, with a lot of sheet-metal screws fastening a cover over it. This tunnel houses the trans. linkage and parking brake?, I think. That stuff usually needs cleaned and lubed. Congrats on your newborn Corvair, you're going to have fun! My greatest one was a '65 Corsa, 4speed, 4carbs. It ran good. One time, I drove it up a mountain, lugging it in high gear, not watching what I was doing, and when I finally woke up and looked at the temp. gauge it read 500 degrees. Never hurt it.

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles